There's no question that New York City is full of opportunity, a statement that extends to nearly all industries and facets of life. And in a city full of both high-stress situations and high-calorie foods, it makes sense that there are innumerable ways to target and improve wellness.
My own wellness habits can be a little basic. I love yoga, I enjoy acai bowls, and I wear a lot of athleisure. It works, but I sometimes feel guilty for not stepping out of my comfort zone. So I set out to find the top wellness experiences across the city.
A botanical elixir happy hour
Happy hour at The Alchemist's Kitchen doesn't involve any beer, wine, or liquor. Instead, all of their alcohol-free drinks are plant-based elixirs, specially designed to change your overall state.
The drinks, inspired by shamanic practices, celebrate the ways that plants can affect our minds and bodies."We like to think of ourselves as disrupting the social drinking scene," the event page for Hour of Happiness read.
When I arrived at the store at 5 p.m. on a Friday, there was definitely a good-sized crowd gathered, all opting for a healthier alternative to the overabundance of bars in the neighborhood. The store's interior clearly highlighted their appreciation of plant life, the walls lined with intriguing products.
Discover plants that were once a Soviet military secret, reverse your graying hair, and make bears (or you) lick each other for hours.
The first drink I tried was called Joy Juice. The server explained to us the list of ingredients, which ranged from familiar names like beet juice to less traditional ones like St. John's Wort, an herbal remedy sometimes used to counter depression. The drink was sweet and delicious.
"This second drink can be a little tougher to get down," the server warned. "It's a muscle relaxer, so your tongue will go numb as you drink it." She told us that its effects would make a good companion for the uplifting properties of the Joy Juice.
The taste grew on me, as my tongue grew numb from the ingredients. I also experienced increased relaxation, the perfect pairing for my good mood.
In all, The Alchemist's Kitchen is a great alternative to the same old happy hour. Trust me, your body will thank you.
A breath-focused meditation at a drop-in studioIt's commonly said that meditation reduce your stress level, increase positive emotions, and even improve your sex life.
MNDFL exists to enable humans to feel good. We are New York City's premier meditation studio.
With such renowned benefits, it's no surprise that boutique meditation studios are appearing in busy cities. Everyone knows that life in a city can be anything but relaxing, so it makes total sense to have dedicated places to unwind.
MNDFL, a popular meditation studio in New York City, had been on my radar for a while.
When I stepped into the space at MNDFL, I instantly felt calmer. Everything about the lobby was stunning and carefully planned, from the soft grey couches to the golden architectural light fixtures. A bookshelf displayed top picks from the various teachers, a clear representation of the variety of meditation styles that the studio offers.
In the studio, I sat on my cushion, nervously trying to find the most comfortable position before the class began. I had meditated briefly in yoga classes, but meditating for longer than five minutes was totally foreign to me.
"Your legs might fall asleep," said the instructor, Kathy, "but don't worry. They'll wake up eventually." Oh no, I hadn't even thought of that possibility, I thought.
But to my surprise, the 30 minutes flew by with only minor discomfort and a couple itches I couldn't ignore. We focused on our breathing and how each breath affected the body, which helped me to let other intrusive thoughts go. At the end of the class, I felt great.
Will I be back? MNDFL recommends a consistent practice for the best results, so I hope so!
Nitrogen-infused cold brew coffeeCaffeine has obvious benefits when it comes to productivity, but lately, it seems like everyone's more focused on how it can benefit your health.
In addition to keeping you awake, your morning cup may also be increasing your life span and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Even the World Health Organization recently changed their tune, no longer classifying the beverage as a possible carcinogen.
But my typical coffee order involves a lot of milk and at least three sugar packets. And let's be honest, that's not really a fantastic recipe for wellness. So when I heard that nitrogen-infused coffee tastes sweet all on its own, I was definitely eager to give it a try.
Just as the name implies, nitro coffee is infused with nitrogen gas in a keg. The results? A smoother, creamier beverage that is 80% less acidic than your average cold brew. And supposedly, this drink wouldn't make me wish for milk and sugar.
In an attempt to find an adequate replacement for my calorie-heavy lattes, I headed to RISE Coffee, a tiny pop-up counter. The menu offers just three options: a 12oz cup, a 16oz cup, or a latte with cashew milk. I opted for the 12oz. The barista asked me if I wanted ice, and I had no idea, so I asked him what he recommended.
"It comes out cold from the tap," he said. "So I prefer no ice, because otherwise, it gets diluted."
He was right that it didn't need ice -- it was plenty cold. But it also tasted a whole lot like, well, cold brew. I'm probably not enough of a coffee drinker to be able to appreciate the fine differences, but my hopes for a sugar-free caffeine fix were dashed.
The one difference I did notice? Nitro coffee has 1.5 times more caffeine than a traditional cup, and I definitely experienced a bigger buzz.
Spinning in front of a giant IMAX screenWhen I was in high school, my parents had a stationary bike in the bathroom. I would ride it sometimes. That's as far as my experience with spinning goes.
NYC has a ton of spinning studios, but none ever caught my attention. I am not much of a cardio lover. But as soon as I learned about IMAXShift, I had high hopes that spinning in front of a huge screen would at least help the time pass faster.
Their website described the class as "an indoor cycling experience that will transport your mind and transform your body." Intriguing, right?
When I arrived at their Brooklyn location, a pair of spinning shoes waited for me on the wall. I changed into them and entered the studio.
Our rockstar instructors, larger-than-life screen, and unmatched audio will take you from the front of your saddle to the edge of reality.
The first thing I noticed was, of course, the IMAX screen. It was huge, and the studio was expertly designed so that each and every bike had a perfect view.
My bike was somewhere right in the middle, and I was just happy to not be in the front row.
The instructor came by and helped me set up my bike. I nervously waited while others got clipped in, praying that I wouldn't die from the cardio. And then the instructor climbed on his bike, the lights went down, and class began.
I immediately found myself cycling through outer space. From there, we flew over canyons, raced down winding roads, and soared past skyscrapers. Combined with the blaring music, I almost felt like I was at a music festival. As if the screen read my mind, images of Bonnaroo began to pop up in front of me.
Not gonna lie, the class was tough. I was a sweaty mess, but the instructor urged us to keep going. "Towels slow you down!" he yelled over the music.
The woman next to me was going impossibly fast. While her speed helped me challenge myself, I was relieved to later learn that she was actually a spin instructor at IMAXShift.
Overall, the screen absolutely helped me go faster, especially when it showed us speeding down a road. Surprisingly, the screen was also great for posture, as it encouraged me to look up and keep my chest open.
I tend to like my food and drinks to look appetizing, and chlorophyll water definitely doesn't. Green juice is one thing; green water on the other hand kind of freaks me out.
But there's a lot of hype behind it, so I obviously had to check it out for myself.
You might remember from school that chlorophyll is super important for plants when it comes to photosynthesis. But what are the benefits for humans? Apparently, it's been linked to cancer prevention, weight loss, detoxification, and energy promotion.
The science isn't quite there yet, but many wellness professionals swear by it, including Dalton Wong, a trainer who has worked with Jennifer Lawrence.
I tried out a bottle at Pressed Juicery, a small storefront in midtown Manhattan. The ingredients were simple: alkaline water and chlorophyll.
The biggest surprise to me was the price. At $2.50, the chlorophyll water was pretty comparable to a bottle of regular water. Less surprising was the taste. It tasted, well, green. I couldn't quite put my finger on the exact taste, but it reminded me of raw vegetables, grass, and in a weird way, tea.
As for health benefits, I can't say I felt any immediately.
A high-tech workout with interactive walls and floors
Technology is changing the wellness scene, especially thanks to the popularity of wearables. And AG6 brings technology to their studio.
The AG6 website boasts that you can burn up to 1000 calories in 45 minutes. Like I said, I'm not a cardio fan, so I'm usually fine with burning way less than that during a yoga class. I felt a little intimidated.
But deep inside, I was also feeling excited, because AG6 at Asphalt Green is the first fitness experience in North America to use PRAMA technology. To sum it up, the walls and the floors are interactive. During the workout, LED lights built into the studio prompt movements and respond to touch. So basically, the workout takes place within an video game.
Designed after years of research to increase efficiency and effectiveness, the interactive system establishes an unparalleled training environment.
The class is broken down into a warm-up and four rounds of eight different stations, ranging from kettlebell swings to suicide runs with squats. In my opinion, the stations had varying degrees of effectiveness, but the best stations were definitely those that utilized the PRAMA technology.
Even though I sometimes felt like I was dying, the class was undoubtedly a lot of fun. The entire workout is timed with colorful lights and loud music. Soothing blue lights cued rest, while more intense colors meant that it was time to begin an exercise. This allowed our instructor, Danelle, to walk around the entire time, pumping us up and assisting with form. Her energy level was incredible and addictive.
My one recommendation? Come with friends! You'll be placed in a group of three, and I loved getting competitive with my boyfriend during class.
I love salt, but when people talk about salt in terms of wellness, it's usually pretty negative. Upon hearing that salt therapy is a thing, I jumped at the chance to try it out.
Everything in the salt chamber at Breathe is made of salt. The walls are composed of blocks of pink Himalayan salt; the floor is covered in crystals of the same. The lamps emitting soft orange glows on the salty floor are made of salt. The art on the walls is, you guessed it, made of salt.
As I lounged in the chamber, a halogenerator released tiny microparticles of salt into the air. I couldn't see them, but I began to taste them on my lips. I dug my bare feet around in the salt crystals on the floor, imagining that I was chilling on the beach.
Dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, is a type of alternative medicine that heals the body through the use of salt. Popularized in Eastern Europe and slowly making its way to the US, halotherapy is said to have numerous benefits, from improving the respiratory system to alleviating skin conditions like eczema. It's also incredibly relaxing.
When I left my session, I definitely felt like my throat was clearer, and I was super calm. There's still a lot of scientific research to be done on halotherapy, but personally, my session was a success.
A walking meditationAfter my experience at MNDFL, I was eager to try another form of meditation. Upon learning that Marble Collegiate Church had a permanent labyrinth, I had to give walking meditation a try.
I've never walked a labyrinth before. At first, I found myself trying and failing to plan out the route to the center. But unlike a maze, a labyrinth only has a single path to follow, so I was eventually able to let go of that desire and simply go where I was intended to go, soft flute music leading me along.
When I reached the center, I felt uncomfortable at first. Were the other people walking the labyrinth staring at me, now that I was in the exact middle? It was a true test in releasing any self-conscious feelings and allowing myself to just be.
In contrast, the walk out of the labyrinth felt familiar as I retraced my steps back to the beginning. I passed others along the way, and they silently acknowledged my presence by making space for me to pass.
I also walked the Labyrinth for Contemplation in Battery Park. The labyrinth is a memorial for the victims of 9/11, a place of quiet reflection and healing. The thoughts in my mind were definitely heavier as I made my way to the middle of the circle on a Friday morning. Instead of flutes, the sounds of both nature and the city provided a soundtrack for my experience.
A Theraphi therapy sessionOf everything I decided to try, I was probably most intrigued by Theraphi. I was also nervous when I got to my session, because all of the information I could find was a little vague.
Theraphi is a powerful double conjugate plasma light/infrasound bioactive field.
A Google search taught me that the Theraphi machine uses electromagnetic waves to restore and heal the body's cells, but I wasn't exactly sure what the treatment was going to entail.
"What is this going to feel like?" I asked Inga, the woman leading me through the treatment. She laughed and said that she didn't want to tell me what to feel.
So with no more knowledge than before, I followed Inga's instructions and positioned myself lying down on the table, with the strangest machine I've ever seen at both my head and my feet. The machine was off, so it wasn't yet emitting the soft pink glow I had seen in photos.
Inga began with a short meditation to put me in the right state of mind. With one hand on my chest and one hand resting on top of my head, she instructed me to leave my mind and travel into my heart center.
And then she turned on the machine.
In the spirit of not giving too much away, I'll just say that I definitely felt it, my mind more affected than my body in one of the most unique sensations I've ever experienced. The machine ran for a total of ten minutes, at which point Inga brought me back to the room through gentle touch. When I emerged, I was offered detox tea.
Based on testimonials, the Theraphi experience varies from person to person, with benefits ranging from pain reduction to increased energy. Personally, I felt more energetic following my session, and I was a little more in touch with my mind.
My final verdict?
Try: botanical elixirs, IMAXShift, MNDFL, salt therapy, AG6, walking meditation, and Theraphi
Skip: nitro coffee and chlorophyll water
I ended up loving almost everything I attempted. My body and my mind felt great after trying out these experiences. Each one was unlike anything I'd ever done before, and I emerged with a renewed appreciation for treating my body right. Did I miss anything? Let me know your favorite wellness trends!